NYC Big Book Award - Gold
Independent Press Award - Gold
Independent Publisher Book Award - Bronze
Review Comments by Dave Rhodes, Durk Dehner, Peter Fiske, Owen Keehnen, Thor Stockman, Ian Young, Nayland Blake, Hank Trout, Ron Suresha, Lester Strong, and August Bernadicou
Who better than longtime leather author Jack Fritscher of Drummer fame to write a fast, fun, and fact-based account of early LA leather life as lived by the great Larry Townsend in this frank and chaming memoir that raises questions such as “Where was the world’s first leather bar?” As a leather publisher, I think fans of Townsend will enjoy this well-told movie-like Hollywood backstory of how and why Larry wrote The Leatherman’s Handbook that “helped create the very leather culture he reported on.”
—Dave Rhodes, publisher, The Leather Journal
The Leatherman’s Handbook remains a legacy guide for young S&M leatherfolk wanting to learn the way we were. Larry Townsend, who fought to protect the rights of authors and artists, was one of the most ethical and honest people I have had the pleasure of knowing. This is the Hollywood story of how he lived and how he died on Sunset Plaza Drive, five minutes from Sunset Boulevard.
—Durk Dehner, co-founder, Tom of Finland Foundation
Jack Fritscher lights up our Leatherworld skies in this West Hollywood memoir of his boisterous friend and collaborator, the Grand Leather Master Larry Townsend who came out in the world’s first leather bar, and taught generations of leatherfolk how we might live. The fast-turning pages reveal the rise and fall of Townsend’s roller-coaster life. What Townsend wrote in 1972 about his own Handbook applies to Fritscher’s 2021 handbook about Townsend: “...a definitive exploration of the gay S&M leather scene...written by a qualified writer who has observed it all from the inside.” Fritscher, who invited Townsend to write for Drummer, is the perfect eyewitness in this candid memoir. A fascinating, witty, and wise story of leather lives well lived from the 1950s to 2008.
—Peter Fiske, author, My Leather Life: Early Years
In this lively memoir of writer, photographer, and pleasure activist, Larry Townsend, Jack Fritscher elevates this biography of his longtime friend by blending memories, anecdotes, and Townsend’s work at Drummer for an expansive view of the man, his times, his frustrations, and his impact on his community. Fritscher celebrates this key figure in the leather/kink world not by putting him on a pedestal, but by capturing him in all his full unvarnished glory, and in doing so makes a significant contribution to an often-overlooked chapter of LGBTQ history.
—Owen Keehnen, author, Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow
Larry Townsend’s was the kind of brilliant life often canceled by puritans who devalue people who contribute to the sexual pleasures some of us dare to explore. I am thrilled that Larry’s friend and fellow giant, Jack Fritscher—editor of Drummer magazine, author of twenty books, and muse to Robert Mapplethorpe—has written this awesome pop-culture memoir to remind leatherfolk of Townsend’s importance to our history, and how much we owe to him for today’s freedoms. Fritscher’s writing is passionate, dazzling, and downright fun to read. What a life! What a book!
—Thor Stockman, producer, S/M at the Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Ridiculous, New York
Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook, a unique amalgam of research, erotica and advice, was something of a founding text for the gay SM and Leather subculture of the late 20th century. Jack Fritscher’s memoir of Townsend, and his pioneering social circle, is a wide-ranging, anecdotal insider’s look at the West Coast Gay Lib and Leather scenes from the 1970s to 2008. Larry Townsend—author, researcher, advice columnist, and political activist—has been something of an unknown quantity in LGBT writing to date. Not any more! Jack Fritscher knew the old Master for many years. He has served him well!
—Ian Young, author, The Male Homosexual in Literature and Encounters with Authors: Essays on Scott Symons, Robin Hardy, and Norman Elder
Over the past fifty years, Larry Townsend’s writings about sex and BDSM have touched generations of kinky people even those who today may not know his name. To them his friend Jack Fritscher offers the inside story of the legendary influencer’s rise and fall. Through a mix of archival documents and photos, Fritscher puts us next to Townsend as he, his friends, and his rivals move through and, in many cases, establish the worlds of gay publishing, politics, and leathersex. Fritscher’s lively, propulsive text reveals the private man struggling behind his public persona, even as he fights for the rights of other independent authors. In our culture that tries to separate the struggle for human rights from the sex lives of the people demanding those rights, Townsend’s uncompromising advocacy and unsanitized writing remind us of what we are fighting for, and Fritscher’s act of friendship returns him to us.
—Nayland Blake, artist, educator, curator, Tag: Proposals on Queer Play and the Way Forward, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
I really do love this book. Only the legendary Jack Fritscher could have written this engrossing, richly detailed remembrance of the equally legendary Larry Townsend. Who else could seat us at a restaurant table in West Hollywood to eavesdrop on bickering leather pioneers gesturing with steak knives? Jack’s affection for Larry is palpable on every page, even when he recounts having to upbraid him over a misbegotten lawsuit. Much of the memoir centers on Townsend’s fraught on-off relationship with Drummer magazine; its scheming publisher John Embry; and its LA editor, Larry’s fickle “Leather Wife,” Jeanne Barney. What emerges is an intimate, engaging, briskly paced, behind-the-scenes portrait of one towering figure, a master of literary leatherotica and nonfiction, told by another towering figure in homomasculine literature and culture. This memoir will cement both Townsend’s and Fritscher’s position forever in the upper echelon of the pantheon of homomasculine leather cultural icons.
—Hank Trout, senior editor, A&U: Art & Understanding (“America’s AIDS Magazine”), and editor, Drummer (1980)
In 2008, shortly before leather icon Larry Townsend died, Jack Fritscher wrote to him about a new-guard magazine “that leaves old fucks like you and me (nothing personal but we are both so last midcentury) out of the new DNA of the changing leather LGBT picture.” Fritscher’s memoir offers old and young leatherbears alike an insightful and lavishly illustrated retrospective about the man who helped define queer leather life for as long as this old fuck can remember. Most importantly, we are given the chance to witness Larry’s life firsthand as experienced by one of the great masculinst authors of our time.
—Ron Suresha, author, Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions and Fur: The Love of Hair
Jack Fritscher does it. Again. In this fascinating new memoir, he does for his iconic friend Larry Townsend what he did in his best-selling memoir of that other sexual outlaw, his lover Robert Mapplethorpe. This fast-moving and entertaining West Hollywood story dishes up to the reader a vivid portrait of the larger-than-life Leather Guru Townsend by recounting their forty years of friendship against all odds. An acute observer of human nature and gay pop culture, Fritscher seems the perfect insider to intrduce readers of a new generation to the complex and politically-incorrect influencer whose important and seminal Leatherman’s Handbook taught the 20th-century gay world about leather and kink culture while he fought for the rights not only of the leather/BDSM community, but of writers, artists, and the LGBTQ community in general. I enjoyed this wonderful book immensely. A very welcome addition to the literature of LGBTQ leather history and of LGBTQ history in Los Angeles.
—Lester Strong, special projects editor, A&U: Art & Understanding (“America’s AIDS Magazine”), and writer, “blu sunne” blog at blusunne.com and aumag.org
Only the bravest embark on authoring a history of a publicly misunderstood and overlooked community. In The Life and Times of Larry Townsend, Jack Fritscher, again, establishes himself as a cultural scholar who can impact an entire movement by not only writing about the present but also by writing about the past. Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook created an undeniable impact, and Fritscher preserves it by narrating the cultural context and shift that surrounded it. This memoir is more than a tale of two friends bound in leather. It’s a road map documenting an entire movement and takes readers into a loop of a time gone by. I learned so much.
—August Bernadicou, historian, The LGBTQ History Project, lgbtqhp.org